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Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, The Reunion

By Maxime Archambaud |

With "Get On Board", the two giants of roots music, ex-comrades in the Rising Sons, pay tribute to another mythical blues duo, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.

The reunion between these two monuments of American music is breathtaking: Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder played in the same band, the short-lived Rising Sons, in 1965! A vintage single and an unreleased album released in 1992 attest to this band's short-lived career. But Ry and Taj are certainly better known for what follows: long and rich careers exploring and building on the heritage of American roots music, starting with folk-blues. With Get On Board, just released by Nonesuch Records, they return as a duo, delving into the repertoire of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Four American legends for the price of two!

From their debut as a duo in 1940, through the 1970s and even more so during the folk revival of the 1960s, harmonica player Sonny Terry and guitarist Brownie McGhee were brilliant missionaries of the old-time blues. Their (deceptively) simple and genuinely warm music opened the door to folk-blues for generations of apprentices, including Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal.

This album of covers has no other ambition than to return to the source, which is still alive. The album cover is from a 1952 album by Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and the music is faithful to the original: acoustic, in an extended duet (with Joachim Cooder, son of Ry, on bass and drums), very melodic and joyful. Of course, Taj Mahal is not the magical harmonica player that Sonny Terry was and Ry Cooder has more instruments at his disposal than Brownie McGhee had. But the overall mood is fundamental folk, simple music to share. The strings clack and quiver, the husky voices mingle, the sun shines and you want to sing along, while keeping an eye on the Sunday barbecue.

LISTEN TO "GET ON BOARD" BY TAJ MAHAL & RY COODER ON QOBUZ